Wednesday, 12 October 2011

And still the watchers on the wall

The sombre resonance of these figures that still look down on the stop where I change buses every week-day morning and evening rarely fails to move me. Without a doubt, James Russell Cant's giant prints are the most powerful public artwork I've come across. Taking photographs of photographs is an odd thing to do, I know. They're irresistible. In times of particularly relentless self-obsession, I guess I appreciate even more than usual the things that regularly pull my attention outwards. I note that when these first appeared nearly eighteen months ago I presumed their welcome presence at the grim Elephant and Castle road junction would be very temporary. How wonderful that this has proved not to be the case. The longer they stay, the more powerful their presence and the more powerfully they embody the opposite of boring, ephemeral or trivialised, the opposite of what is embodied by too much of the London streetscape.

4 comments:

Natalie said...

They certainly are wondrous.
Almost makes me want to undertake the journey to hideous and stress-inducing El & Castle just to see them up close.
Kudos to whoever had the brilliant idea of installing these in such a soul-less setting.

liliannattel said...

I especially like the last one, the ghostly floating.

Fire Bird said...

they seem almost reproachful

Jean said...

Fire Bird, I can see why you might think that and the last photo does rather give that impression, but in fact they aren't in the least baleful or reproachful. I think this is because, although they're very strong and present, these are also not single images, but each one is a composite of many, superimposed, blurred images (see website); and they're not looking down at the street but out at the sea, the land, their own and other lives...

Lilian, I wish you could see them at full size.

But, Natalie, I'm not sure ANYTHING is worth a special trip to Elephant :-(